Lufthansa Group’s intent to end the codeshare and fre- quent flyer arrangements that
Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss have
with Turkish Airlines has interesting
implications for the future of the global
alliances, particularly with regards to
the major Gulf carriers.
Lufthansa, a Star Alliance founding
member, sponsored Turkish Airlines’
induction into Star in 2008. Since then,
Turkish has expanded rapidly and as
a result, Istanbul has become a major
global hub rivaling the traditional
European hubs such as Frankfurt.
Turkish and Istanbul are now similar in weight and importance to the big
three Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad
and Qatar, and their hubs Middle
Star and Lufthansa have long made
it clear that they do not regard Emirates
as a viable Alliance candidate, saying the
Gulf carrier is too big to bring anything
to the partnership table (it must also be
said that Emirates president Tim Clark
has also long made clear his disinterest in global alliances). A Star executive
once commented that no airline needs
90 A380s unless it is interested in world
dominance. Since then, Emirates has
brought its A380 order book up to
140 and, for good measure, added an
order for 150 777Xs – deals that were
announced at the Dubai Air Show in
November where the Gulf carriers dominated the headlines.
Had the extent of Turkish Airlines’
ent in the years before 2008, would
Lufthansa have been so eager to bring
Turkish into the fold?
But since the 1,000 lb gorilla is in
the room, the interesting question is how
do you live up to the pitch of seamless
service to your alliance customers while
simultaneously withdrawing cooperation
from a key partner that has become too
competitive for comfort?
All airlines, regardless of alliance
affiliation, must compete unless they
have specific antitrust immunity. But
codeshares and frequent flyer reciproc-
ity, while not mandatory, are often
the basic tenet on which true seamless
service depends. It’s hard to believe that
Star’s seamless service pledge – or board-
room cordiality - will be improved by
Lufthansa’s action – which Turkish has
also made clear it does not welcome.
The other global alliances are similarly skirting around what it means to have
these mega-growth carriers in the field.
Emirates has signed a five-year partnership with Qantas, a oneworld founding
member. Oneworld insists that this has
no effect on Qantas’ future as an Alliance
member, but questions abound as to how
these relationships will be managed.
Etihad, meanwhile, has announced
Etihad Regional – its path towards
extending its reach into the European
regional networks. The Abu Dhabi-based
carrier will acquire a 33.3% stake in
Darwin Airline, a regional carrier based
in Lugano, Switzerland, to launch Etihad
Regional to connect passengers from
secondary European markets on to its
The Network Game
Dubai Air Show aircraft orders underscored the continued growth plans of the Big Three Gulf
carriers; what are the implications for global alliances?
By Karen Walker
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